Red letter day as Cat brings back her 'retired' lucky boots

PHEOBE McWilliams turned to an unlikely source when she wanted to recapture some strong form.

The Geelong key forward was given a special pair of red footy boots for last year's VFLW Grand Final (when she was playing for Hawthorn, coincidentally against Geelong's VFLW side).

The Hawks won the flag, and McWilliams had 13 disposals, took six marks and was named her side's second-best player.

McWilliams promptly retired the boots to keep as a memento.

Or so she thought.

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Heading into Geelong's round four clash against Carlton last weekend, the 33-year-old wanted to feel as good as she did on the way to that VFLW premiership, and pulled out her red boots again.

She then played her best game in the blue and white hoops, finishing with 10 disposals, six marks, three tackles and a goal as the Cats won a nailbiter by five points.

"We really played our style of footy in the first half. As a forward, I felt really supported by the other forwards," McWilliams said.

"Mia (Clifford) was supporting and blocking really well, 'Boydy' (Maddie Boyd) was presenting and taking strong marks, and having the experience of Aasta (O'Connor) as another deep forward was invaluable."

"Then in the second half Carlton came back. They came out with an attacking mindset and did really well. They had lots of opportunities … we were lucky they didn't capitalise on all of them.

"We held on, which shows resilience and maturity by our team. I thought in the last five minutes, we just kept holding [the play] up. It was a smart way to play."

When McWilliams is on song, her leading and marking can turn a match on its head.

"Whenever the ball does come in the air I know to be on my toes, I know to be in front," she said.

I can tell when my team's going to kick it in, I can read it a little bit quicker than my defender. That's one of my strengths.

"It also helps when you've got Liv Purcell hitting you lace-out, kicking it to space, not on top of your head. That makes such a difference.

"Then you've got Mia (Clifford) running 30 metres to block for you, confusing the defenders so you get an easy lead. The things your teammates do makes you look good, and I think a lot of my game depends on the team and the delivery."

It will be a tougher task for McWilliams and her Geelong teammates this weekend, taking on a resurgent Brisbane with a defensive line-up featuring Leah Kaslar, Kate Lutkins and a vastly improved Shannon Campbell.

Kate Darby and debutant Rene Caris will be lining up alongside McWilliams, with Boyd and fellow forward O'Connor both suspended.

As well as her red boots, McWilliams will be taking some advice into the game from Geelong key forward Tom Hawkins.

McWilliams works several days a week at Geelong with the club's media team. Upon hearing she was a fan of Hawkins, her work manager arranged a coffee with the Cats' AFL star.

"We sat down for an hour and he ran me through what he thinks when he goes out on the field. We have a lot of similarities in the roles we play, so we talked about when the opposition drops defenders back and when they hit you (as a distraction technique)," she said.

"He has a really positive and confident mindset. He was saying it's a good thing that defenders are keeping a close eye on you … it means you must be doing the right things.

"Often as women we are down on ourselves, but he was really confident, and I thought, 'Why aren't I like that?'. It was really good to learn from him."

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